From the University of Pennsylvania to BCG
When Lauren H. started college at the University of Pennsylvania as a Biochemistry major, she had no idea that she would end up getting her MBA. The original goal was to do translational cancer research, but she soon found herself interested in other opportunities to learn about the business of healthcare delivery through Penn’s healthcare management department. After completing her undergraduate studies, Lauren worked for one of her Wharton professors in research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, applying statistical methods to study healthcare delivery when randomized trials aren’t possible.
After a couple of years of research, Lauren moved into consulting at the Boston Consulting Group. Her projects all revolved around healthcare, including biopharma operations, and research & development strategy, among others. She still heavily relied on her background in science, but also worked daily with business concepts.
Lauren decided to pursue an MBA to reinforce her business knowledge in areas where she had less experience, such as finance and management.
Applying to Business School
Lauren eventually decided to pursue an MBA, and had very specific goals in mind for what she wanted from the experience. She knew that she wanted to continue in the business of healthcare and as such, she needed a program that was strong in that area. For that reason, she only applied to two programs: Wharton and Columbia.
Studying for the GMAT and putting together the applications while working was intense. She knew she needed to get the GMAT done first so she’d know that she had an adequate score for admission. Instead of taking a leave of absence for full-time studying, she dedicated her weekends and weeknights to the GMAT for three months. She also did the Leland MBA Bootcamp, attending individual and group tutoring sessions where she focused on improving the areas in which her performance was the weakest.
The Leland coaches she worked with helped her identify these areas and then strengthen them. She also used the GMAT Club forum, which has question banks that are tagged with the level of difficulty and question type. Within twenty days, Lauren took the GMAT twice and improved her score by 70 points.
Once she knew she had the score to apply, she got to work with only six weeks until the Round 2 deadline. She again worked with a Leland coach to talk over her story and find what resonated. Once she had that, she was able to put together compelling essays that led to her acceptance at both programs she applied to.
Lauren attended both Wharton and Columbia’s Accepted Students Days. What finally made the difference in her decision was the healthcare management program at Wharton and the relationships she cultivated during her undergrad. This fall, Lauren will head to Philadelphia to claim her spot as a Whartonite.
Advice for Other MBA Applicants
Her advice for other applicants is twofold: first, start studying for the GMAT early; and second, take the time to get clarity on the story you want to tell before you start writing your essay.
In studying for the GMAT, it’s good to go in with a plan. You need to figure out how you’re going to study. Will you take time off work and dedicate yourseful full-time? Will you stick to weekends and weeknights over a longer period of time instead? Knowing which route you’ll take will give you an idea of how early you need to start in order to make your application deadline. Give yourself a buffer so that if you need to retake it, you’re able to do so without being rushed at the end.
For the rest of the application, Lauren recommends figuring out your story before starting to write. That way you can limit the number of rounds of drafts and focus on how to convey your story effectively rather than what to say. She found working with a coach to be really helpful with this point; having someone to bounce ideas off of, dig into different experiences, and see what sticks will help you cultivate a narrative that the adcom will find compelling.
At the end of the day, applying to MBA programs is more than filling out an application, it’s a form of self-discovery and finding the version of yourself that you want to show others. Lauren’s educational and career journey has taken many unexpected twists and turns, and yet at each step she has found success and gratification. Find areas that are interesting to you and pursue them, you never know where they may take you.
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